Formula One: On and off track - week 10

Formula One: On and off track - week 10

Coulthard to DTM, manager's crisis, McLaren's secret weapon and off the pace? David Coulthard to DTM? David Coulthard, who was active in Formula One from 1994 until 2008 for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, has decided to start a second ...

Coulthard to DTM, manager's crisis, McLaren's secret weapon and off the pace?

David Coulthard to DTM?

David Coulthard, who was active in Formula One from 1994 until 2008 for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, has decided to start a second racing career, and wants to join the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) series. Coulthard is not the first Formula One driver who wants to make this step; Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jochen Mass, Riccardo Patrese, Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Mika Hakkinen, and Ralf Schumacher, to name a few, did the same in the past. The 38-year Scott tested a AMG Mercedes C-class car for the German M?cke team at the circuit of Monteblanco in the south of Spain last month.

David Coulthard is ready to replace Mathias Lauda in DTM.
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Coulthard after the test: "The cars are difficult to drive, but they are great. They look great as well. In F1 we talk about double diffusers, these cars look like they have diffusers to a factor of 15! The technology level is very high." He also admitted he misses the thrill and excitement of racing: "I wanted to take a year off to see if I missed racing and to see if there were any options outside of F1." DTM is very popular in Europe, it's a touring car championship at the highest level, and for manufacturers like Audi and Mercedes an unique opportunity to showcase their modern technology and design skills.

Although Mercedes sport chef Norbert Haug has said there is no final agreement yet, according to the German Auto, Motor und Sport magazine, the deal is done. Coulthard will replace Mathias Lauda, who only scored one point in 2009, and will be driving a last year's AMG Mercedes for team M?cke. The magazine also claims sponsor Red Bull is involved in the deal, and the car will be painted in the livery of the Austrian Red Bull energy drinks manufacturer. During testing Coulthard was only one second of the pace of other DTM drivers, but he still has to prove he can be as successful in DTM as he was in Formula One.

Manager's crisis?

When the FIA threatened not to renew the super license of drivers associated with Flavio Briatore after the Renault crash gate scandal, Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen were forced to find another manager. Although Briatore's ban was overturned, it's still not clear what the FIA's official stance concerning this issue is, so Webber and Kovalainen decided to conduct their own business without a manager. Webber already had a contract with Red Bull this year, but Kovalainen needed a manager to negotiate his contract with Lotus, but instead decided to manage his own career. Kovalainen: "I decided to do all the negotiations myself, for me it's very important to know exactly what you are signing. I know what to do and it gives me peace of mind."

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel never had a manager at all, and also likes to make his own decisions, and although he admitted contract negotiations can be very tedious, he has sofar never regretted his decision to manage his own career.

Michael Schumacher also negotiated his contract with Mercedes himself, and announced changes in his management team last week. Schumacher's long-time spokeswoman Sabine Kehm will now take over the leading role from Willi Weber, also known as Mr. Twenty Percent, and Weber will now be in charge of the merchandising side of Schumacher's business, Weber also manages the career of Williams' rookie driver German Nico H?lkenberg.

Lewis Hamilton has also split with his current manager, his father Anthony Hamilton. The two seemed inseparable, and were considered to be the most successful father/son pairs in the history of Formula One, but Hamilton thinks it is time for a change: "I've been in F1 for quite a while and I wouldn't have been able to do it without my dad. He's done a fantastic job. But he's done that job. What I am really excited about now is having my dad just as my dad." His father will now also have more time to manage Paul di Resta and Nyck de Vries, and spend more time on setting up a Formula One young driver's academy.

McLaren's secret weapon?

The design of the rear wing on the 2010 McLaren MP4-25 unwillingly became the focus of attention during the last pre-season tests in Spain. Ferrari and Red Bull think the design is not entirely legal, and have requested the FIA for clarification of the technical regulations. Sounds familiar doesn't it? McLaren's design uses the airflow from the engine cover and air box to stall the rear wing at high speed, which gives them a straight-line speed advantage. There are now also questions about the air intake mounted on top of the monocoque of the McLaren, its purpose is still unknown, and the air intake has become the subject of speculations.

The air intake is located on top of the monocoque, just before the cockpit (on the right in this picture).
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Red Bull principal Christian Horner: "Basically, if you stall the wing you take all the drag off it and pick up straight-line speed. It's something that's been done quite a lot over the years, but with the wing separators you're not supposed to do that". But Horner also admitted that it is not such a big issue as last year's diffuser, and McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh is confident the design is legal and invited FIA technical chief Charlie Whiting to inspect the wing. The inspection did not take place because Whiting's flight from Brazil to Europe was cancelled, therefore the FIA has postponed it until this Thursday when all cars are inspected for the first race in Bahrain.

Off the pace?

Lotus and Virgin were 4 to 5 seconds off the pace during testing, and the Spanish HRT team hasn't been able to test their car at all, so others have now joined Ferrari's criticism. Ferrari driver Felipe Massa said the new teams were bad for the sport and hopes they won't be 'a danger' during the race. Red Bull's Mark Webber thinks the situation is 'totally mad' and added: 'I've always been a massive believer that you need quality, not quantity."

David Coulthard in his weekly column for the UK daily Telegraph: "Has the world gone mad? F1 is a dangerous sport at the best of times but asking teams to just turn up at practice on a Friday before a race is plain irresponsible. Even if the new teams negotiate Bahrain without a hitch - and I hope they do - they will be miles off the pace."

McLaren's Jenson Button was a bit more subtle and is more concerned about qualifying: "It's not so much a question of danger, but it will make it more difficult for us to work in practice. It could be we're [the other teams] starting a fast lap with low fuel and you come across a Lotus or a Virgin with full tanks running 12 seconds slower."

The new teams need support in their fist year in Formula One, the only one who understands that is McLaren's managing director Jonathan Neale, although he's also concerned about the pace, he has called for support for the new teams, and has asked the other teams to welcome them and help them to integrate in Formula One, rather than ridiculing them before they even have turned a wheel during a Grand Prix.

Join us again next week for the weekly "Formula One: On and off track".

See also: Formula One: On and off track - week 9

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , Jean Alesi , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Hans-Joachim Stuck , Norbert Haug , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Riccardo Patrese , Flavio Briatore , Heikki Kovalainen , Jochen Mass , Mathias Lauda , Sebastian Vettel
Teams Williams